Opposition leaders on Friday questioned the government’s move to charge former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah under the Public Safety Act late last night.

Besides Mufti and Abdullah, National Conference General Secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar and Peoples Democratic Party leader Sartaj Madni have also been booked under the Act as their detention under Section 107 (security for keeping the peace in other cases) of the Indian Penal Code is coming to an end.

The Nation Conference called the move “atrocious” and said it was another “blatant illustration of the Centre’s high-handedness”.

“The measure debunks the claim of the BJP-led central government on restoration of normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir,” party leaders Mohammad Akbar Lone, Hasnain Masoodi and Imran Nabi Dar said in a joint statement. “The present situation in Jammu and Kashmir is far from normal. For past many decades New Delhi has been flaunting political and diplomatic messages about the Kashmiris making their choices by using ballot boxes. However, the same party, and the same leaders on which people had reposed their faith are now been targeted, revealing all-encompassing crackdown of the BJP-led central government in Jammu and Kashmir.” They alleged that party leaders were detained only because they did not agree with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

The leaders also said it was “alarming” that the prime minister quoted an article from a satirical website Faking News to attack Abdullah in Parliament.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra asked on what basis the government invoked the Public Safety Act. “They upheld the Constitution of India, abided by the democratic process, stood up to separatists, and never ascribed to violence and divisiveness,” she tweeted. “They deserve to be freed, not incarcerated indefinitely without any basis.”

Congress leader Kapil Sibal said Modi must explain how the politicians are a threat when they are under custody, ANI reported. “I want to ask the prime minister how you can impose PSA because they have been under your detention,” he said. “This is political because they know the situation in Kashmir is not normal, the internet is still not open, people are not able to express their views.”

Rajya Sabha MP and lawmaker from Mufti’s party said the politicians were not militants to be treated this way. “If the idea of abrogating Article 370 was integration, then why are former chief ministers being slapped with PSA,” he asked.

Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien also pointed how Modi quoted “fake news” to mislead Parliament.

The PSA, notified in 1978, allows detention without a trial for three to six months. It was introduced under former Chief Minister Sheikh Abdullah to keep timber smugglers “out of circulation”. The Act was invoked to detain former Chief Minister and National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah on September 17. It was extended by three months in December.